I tried — I really did — to shake Herb Alpert. His silky smooth trumpet musings had been my introduction to something like jazz, though, and I’ve always associated his music with a time of unvarnished musical enthusiasm. Fandango may be the best example of an Alpert album that I try — I really do — not to like, thinking my tastes have become too sophisticated, but then end up falling for anyway.
Recorded over three days in Mexico City with co-producer Jose Quintana, Albert’s 28th project began with a title track straight out of the Tijuana Brass stylebook — but updated with better material, and with a far more talented band of co-horts. (Bassist Abraham Laboriel’s solo here, for instance, is brilliant.) The majestically melancholy “California Blues,” and the oh-so-funky “Push and Pull” stand up remarkably well, too.
The album is perhaps best known, of course, for “Route 101,” a springy Top 40 hit from the summer of 1982 — then, as now, a transfixing blend of insistent rhythms, cyclic riffs and throwback strings. Fandango (set for reissue on February 19, 2013 via Shout! Factory) also closes with a muscular four-song Latin medley that combines early inspirational tracks like Alberto Dominguez’s “Frenesi” (an early-1940s hit for Artie Shaw), and Ary Barroso’s “Bahia.”
There are moments, of course, when Fandango sounds hopelessly dated (as on Alpert’s Latin-meets-mid century pop vibe of “Coco Loco [La Guajira]“), and at least one item that was a misfire from the first — when Alpert gingerly feels his way through a vocal on the Burt Bacharach-lite “Quiereme Tal Como Soy,” sung in a not-very-convincing memorized Spanish.
But even those missteps didn’t stop me from loving this reissue, so resonate of another time in my musical life. It transported me once again to a time when I was too young to be cool. Luckily for me, no matter how far I wander off, Alpert always takes me back.